The Dravidianization of India

On this week’s The Insight Spencer Wells and I talk about the Indo-Aryan arrival to South Asia. This was recorded very early last summer, and I’m rather unguarded (it’s well before I had the piece published in India Today).

I think 2018 will finally be the year that a lot of South Asia will be “solved.” There has been some foot-dragging on papers and results, but that can only go so long.

All that being said I suppose I should make some suppositions I have arrived at on this topic more explicit, as in a discussion with an Indian friend he admitted had no idea about some of my views, though he reads this weblog when I expressed them. That’s because they are speculative and my confidence in them is weak, though you can infer my opinions if you look very closely.

The figure to the left is from Genomic insights into the origin of farming in the ancient Near East, a paper published about a year and a half ago. You see various South Asian populations being modeled as a mixture of four different source populations. The Onge are an Andaman Islander population (and the closest we can get to the aboriginal peoples of South Asia). Iran_N represents Neolithic Iranians, the canonical “eastern farmer” population. Steppe_EMBA represent Yamnaya pastoralists, who are themselves modeled as a mixture of Eastern European Hunter-Gatherers (EHG) and southern population which has affinities with the Iran_N cluster. EHG in their turn seems to exhibit ancestry from Western European Hunter-Gatherers (WHG), whose heritage dates to the late Pleistocene, and Ancient North Eurasians (ANE), who flourished in Siberia, and contributed ancestry to populations to the west and east (including the ancestors of Native Americans).

When I first saw this specific figure I was incredulous. I had long thought that “Ancient North Indians” (ANI) were a compound of two elements, one related to the farmers of West Asia (Iran_N), and the other steppe Indo-European (Steppe_EMBA/Yamnaya). But the fraction of Yamnaya/Indo-European/Indo-Aryan ancestry seemed far too high.

A few years later I am less certain about my skepticism. The fractions here in the details are debatable. Within the text of the paper, the author admits that the true ancestral populations are probably not represented by the model. But they are close. In most cases, the “Han” ancestry is probably indicative of the fact that the non-ANI component of South Asian ancestry is most closely related to the Onge, but is significantly different nonetheless.

The ratio of Iran_N and Steppe_EMBA is the key. Here is a selection from the paper:

Group Iran_N Steppe_EMBA Ratio
Jew_Cochin 0.53 0.23 2.27
Brahui 0.60 0.30 1.98
Kharia 0.13 0.07 1.97
Balochi 0.57 0.32 1.75
Mala 0.23 0.18 1.25
Vishwabrahmin 0.25 0.20 1.21
GujaratiD 0.29 0.28 1.04
Sindhi 0.38 0.38 1.00
Bengali 0.22 0.25 0.91
Pathan 0.36 0.45 0.81
Punjabi 0.24 0.33 0.72
GujaratiB 0.27 0.38 0.72
Lodhi 0.21 0.29 0.72
Burusho 0.27 0.43 0.64
GujaratiC 0.23 0.37 0.61
Kalash 0.29 0.50 0.58
GujaratiA 0.26 0.46 0.57
Brahmin_Tiwari 0.23 0.44 0.51

Any way you slice it, a group like the Tiwari Brahmins of Northern India have more Onge-like ancestry than most of the groups in Pakistan. But also observe that the ratio toward Steppe_EMBA is more skewed in them than among even Pathans or Kalash.  The Lodhi, a non-upper caste population from Uttar Pradesh in north-central South Asia are more skewed toward Steppe_EMBA than Pathans.

It is important for me to reiterate that the key is to focus on ratios and not exact percentages. Though the Steppe_EMBA fraction did strike me as high, glimmers of these sorts of results were evident in model-based clustering approaches as early as 2010. The population in the list above most skewed toward Iran_N are Cochin Jews. This group has known Middle Eastern ancestry. But next on the list are Brahui, a Dravidian speaking group in Pakistan. There is a north-south cline within Pakistan, with northern populations (Burusho) being skewed toward Steppe_EMBA and southern ones (Sindhi) being skewed toward Iran_N. Additionally, Iranian groups such as Pathans and Baloch likely have had some continuous gene flow with Middle Eastern groups, probably inflating their Iran_N.

Trends I see in the data:

  1. There is a north-south cline within Pakistan with Steppe_EMBA vs. Iran_N
  2. There is a north-south cline within South Asia with Steppe_EMBA vs. Iran_N
  3. There is caste stratification within regions between Steppe_EMBA vs. Iran_N
  4. Though not clear in this table, there are strong suggestions that Indo-European speaking groups tend to be enriched in Steppe_EMBA, all things equal (e.g., the Bengalis in the 1000 Genomes look a lot like the middle-caste Telugus in the 1000 Genomes when you remove the East Asian ancestry…except for a noticeable small fraction of a component which I think points to Indo-European ancestry)

What does this mean in terms of a model of the settlement of South Asian over the past 4,000 years? One conclusion I have come to is that Dravidian speaking groups are not the aboriginal peoples of the subcontinent. Rather, their settlement across much of South Asia is very recent. Almost as recent as Indo-Aryan habitation. In First Farmers the archaeologist Peter Bellwood proposed this model, whereby Indo-Aryans and Dravidians both expanded across South Asia concurrently. Though I think elements of Bellwood’s model that are incorrect, it’s far more correct in my opinion than I believed when I first encountered it.

Why do I believe this?

  1. The Neolithic begins in South India in 3000 BC.
  2. Sri Lanka is Indo-European speaking
  3. The Dravidian languages of South India don’t seem particularly diverged from each other
  4. There is ancestry/caste stratification in South India even excluding Brahmins (e.g., Reddys and Naidus in Andhra Pradesh look somewhat different from Dalits and tribals)
  5. Some scholars claim that there isn’t a Dravidian substrate in the Gangetic plain
  6. R1a1a-Z93, almost certainly associated with Indo-Aryans, is found in South Indian tribal populations
  7. Using LD-based methods researchers are rather sure that the last admixture events between ANI and ASI (“Ancestral South Indians”) populations occurred around ~4,000 years ago

Here is my revised model as succinctly as I can outline it. The northwest fringes of South Asia, today Pakistan, and later to be the home of the Indus Valley Civilization (IVC), was populated by a mix of indigenous populations, a form of ASI, when West Asian agriculturalists arrived ~9,000 years ago from what is today Iran. These were the Iran_N or “eastern farmer” groups. The West Asian agricultural toolkit was serviceable in northwestern South Asia for reasons of climate and ecology, but could not expand further east and south for thousands of years.

There is where the first admixture occurred that led to a population was mixed between ANI and ASI. These people lacked Steppe_EMBA. They were pre-Indo-European. They were almost certainly not all Dravidian speaking. The Burusho people of northern Pakistan, for example, speak a language isolate (in India proper you have Nihali and Kusunda)

By ~3000 BC this proto-South Asian (in a modern sense) population began to expand, while the IVC matured and waxed. Eventually, the IVC waned, fragmented, and disappeared.

Around ~2000 BC, or perhaps somewhat later, Indo-Aryans arrive in South Asia. The situation at this stage in not one of a primordial and static Dravidian India, on which Indo-Aryans place themselves on top. Rather, it’s a dynamic one as the collapse of the IVC has opened up a disordered power vacuum, and a reconfiguration of cultural and sociopolitical alliances.

In the paper above the author alludes to the pervasiveness of both Iran_N and Steppe_EMBA ancestry in South Asia, including in South India. “Indo-European” Y chromosomal lineages are also found among many South Indian groups, albeit at attenuated proportions region-wide. In Peter Turchin’s formulation, I believe that “Indo-Aryan” and “Dravidian” identities became meta-ethnic coalitions in the post-IVC world. Genetically the two groups are different, on average. But some Dravidian populations assimilated and integrated Indo-Aryan tribes and bands, while Indo-Aryans as newcomers assimilated many Dravidian populations.

The reason that the ratio of Iran_N to Steppe_EMBA does not decline monotonically as one goes from west to east along North Indian plain is that Indo-Aryans were not expanding into a Dravidian India.  Dravidian India was expanding only somewhat ahead of Indo-Aryan India, and in some places not all at all. In the northwest fringe of South Asia there had long been a settled population of peasants with West Asian ancestry with Iran_N affinities. In contrast to the east the landscape was populated by nomadic tribal populations with ASI affinities. North Indian Brahmins may have more Steppe_EMBA than some populations in Pakistan and more ASI because they descend from Indo-Aryan groups who absorbed indigenous ASI populations as they expanded across the landscape.

Dravidian groups as they expanded also assimilated indigenous populations. This explains some groups with very high fractions of ASI. Their ASI ancestry is a compound, of an old admixture in Northwest India, and also later assimilation in South India. The presence of R1a1a-Z93 in these populations reflects the integration of some originally Indo-Aryan groups into the expanding Dravidian wavefront.

Where does this leave us?

  1. The Indo-Aryan vs. Dravidian dichotomy is not one of newcomers vs. aboriginals. It is of two different sociocultural configurations which came into their current shape in the waning days of the IVC. That is, it is less than 4,000 years old
  2. The two populations were clearly interacting closely around the time of the collapse and disintegration of the IVC and post-IVC societies. There has been gene flow between the two
  3. ~4000 years ago ANI and ASI populations existed in their “pure” form, but that is because ASI aboriginals still existed to the south and east of the IVC, while Indo-Aryans were a new intrusive presence in the Indian subcontinent
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50 thoughts on “The Dravidianization of India

  1. I would modify your narrative only a little. I think you are right that Dravidian ethnogenesis happens only a bit before the Indo-Aryan invasion. I’ve seen dates for the South Indian Neolithic as late as 2500 BCE, which would put its spread just 500 years before the Indo-Aryan invasion.

    But, the time depth of the Dravidian languages spoken today is considerably younger than that based on linguistic inferences, and the LD based last admixture dates between ANI and ASI more recent in the north than they are in the South.

    What I infer is that after a Dravidian culture and language emerges and spreads in the South Indian Neolithic, that the Indo-Aryan invasion swoops in and conquers almost all of the sub-continent with the exception of an area perhaps the size of a single Indian state somewhere in the east-central part of the subcontinent. Everyone conquered becomes Hindu and undergoes language shift and has a Brahmin class of Indo-Aryan men marrying local women installed.

    But, soon enough, the Indo-Aryan invaders’ hold weakens and the Dravidians burst out retaking most (but not all) of the territory that they lost to the invasion (these South Indian Neolithic culture never reaches lots of territory in the North and West until colonists head out much later ca. 1000 CE). This last surviving Dravidian dialect replaces the Indo-Aryan languages that had been installed briefly in their reconquista, but they don’t dislodge the Hindu religion or the Brahamins who accept and serve their new Dravidian lords rather than resisting them. The lack of linguistic diversity in Dravidian reflects this linguistic bottleneck effect.

    In my view, the Dravidian languages arises from the language of the people who brought the South Asian Neolithic package of crops that are mostly native to the African Sahel, who also bring other cultural elements associated with the people who raised those Sahel crops with them, but with local Indian hunter-gatherer language substrate linguistic and cultural influences. The are lots of features of Dravidian that bear similarities to other Niger-Congo languages which are on the fringe of the Niger-Congo language family bordering non-Niger-Congo languages, and I don’t think that those similarities are coincidental.

    But, I also suspect that the people who were pivotal in the farming technology/culture/language transfer that gave rise to the South Indian Neolithic were male dominated and that this was a case of a fairly small group of men who brought about elite-led language shift with much less demic impact. Men with Y-DNA T in India are in my view, most likely patriline descendants of the men who brought the South Indian Neolithic package to India (whose autosomal ancestry from these men has been greatly diluted over the last 4500 years or so), geographically probably pretty close to the area that later became the last redoubt of Dravidian language speakers before they bounced back. (Y-DNA T could have been Somalian or Egyptian described in terms of anachronistic current political boundaries, perhaps, from people who learned to farm from Sahel farmers but also had ties to maritime trade. There haven’t been any really high resolution of modern Y-DNA T bearers in India to allow confirmation or rejection of this hypothesis more strongly.)

    Thus, while I don’t think that the Dravidian language or culture are entirely indigenous, and indeed, I think it arose fairly recently, I think that in terms of population genetics, Dravidians are predominantly autochthonous, which is supported by the fact that Dravidians who are middle to lower caste in India have lots of uniparental markers and autosomal haplogroups that are private to South Asia and by the fact that ASI-like autosomal genetic components are vanishingly rare most places outside of the subcontinent.

    Meanwhile, while only a first wave of steppe migration made it to South India after which the Dravidian counter-revolution held back further steppe migration; there was an additional subsequent wave of Indo-Aryan migration into non-Dravidian Indian in the North and West, which gives rise to more recent ANI-ASI admixture dates in those regions than in Dravidian India. This second wave of Indo-Aryan migration is what left the North and West enriched in steppe ancestry relative to Dravidian India.

    Yes, this narrative isn’t “proven” and instead is only a plausible way to reconcile the available facts. But, it is more plausible way than any of the alternatives I’ve encountered to integrate all of the available facts.

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  2. I think that in terms of population genetics, Dravidians are predominantly autochthonous,

    well, ASI fractions for most south indian dravidian groups is in the 50-60% range. so yeah, perhaps, but JUST. and, that % is sensitive to reference populations. not implausible that ASI fraction could be bumped down.

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  3. The Niger-Congo/Dravidian relationship appears to be the brainchild of one Afrocentrist researcher who is not a competent linguist. On the other hand, the Elamite-Dravidian connection claimed by McAlpin, which is credible on archaeological grounds, is actually weak. See this article by Starostin for a good critical review:http://starling.rinet.ru/Texts/elam.pdf

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  4. the ancient near east is filled with linguistic isolates (sumerian, elamite, kassite, hurrian, hattic and urartian come to mind). i think this is indicative of diversity that was rapidly winnowed away.

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  5. Indeed. Doesn’t that evidence of diverse isolated (pre-Neolithic?) languages seem to fit nicely with Broushaki et al.’s (2016) genomic data?

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  6. I just got back from Lanka and the prevailing myth is that Prince Vijaya conquered the tribal natives ~400 BCE and introduced Buddhist culture (and presumably Indo-European language) there. The important part of the myth is that people were already living there and were civilized by him.

    Also yeah, some of those Tamils looked black to me. It makes sense the Republicans would try to cover it up. The truth will come out soon.

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  7. “They were pre-Indo-European. They were almost certainly not all Dravidian speaking. The Burusho people of northern Pakistan, for example, speak a language isolate (in India proper you have Nihali and Kusunda)”

    Before the arrival of Indo Aryan, I think the Iran-Neolithic like population migrated in multiple waves. Each waves brought different haplogroups and were morphologically distinct.
    Kalash people have almost all major south Asian y haplogroups, from oldest haplogroups like H1 and G to more recent L3,R1a and J2 despite their isolation.


    It is important for me to reiterate that the key is to focus on ratios and not exact percentages.”

    Ratios or percentages, Im confident Iran_N is one of the key component in every non-Brahmin south Asian groups, even in Indian,Pakistani and Bangladeshi muslims, except some Pakistanis groups like Jatts or Gujjars, as they are supposed to have scythian like steppe pedigree.

    Brahmin vs non-Brahmin or Steppe_EMBA vs Iran_N is valid even among the same group.A Patel-Gujrati is more Iran_N shifted compared to a Gujrati-Brahmin, which is more steppe_EMBA shifted or a Bengali-Brahmin is more steppe_EMBA shifted compared to a mid-caste hindu Bengali or Bengali-Muslim and logically mid-caste hindus/Bengali-Muslims are more Iran_N than Bengali-Brahmin.
    Nontheless, Im pretty sure autosomally a Gujrati-Brahmin must be close to a Gujrati-Patel than to a UP Brahmin or a Maharashtra Brahmin. Atleast there are more similarity in traits between same group, the same goes for Bengalis, Punjabis, Telegus ect.

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  8. Also yeah, some of those Tamils looked black to me. It makes sense the Republicans would try to cover it up. The truth will come out soon.

    stop trolling or i’ll ban you.

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  9. “well, ASI fractions for most south indian dravidian groups is in the 50-60% range. so yeah, perhaps, but JUST. and, that % is sensitive to reference populations. not implausible that ASI fraction could be bumped down.”

    Do South Indian Dravidians, Srilankans and Maldivians have the highest ASI?
    IMO 50%-60% range sounds correct just by looking their traits, and i guess their ANI percentage is similar to eastern Indians and Bengalis and maybe Gujrati-D ?

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  10. Nontheless, Im pretty sure autosomally a Gujrati-Brahmin must be close to a Gujrati-Patel than to a UP Brahmin or a Maharashtra Brahmin. Atleast there are more similarity in traits between same group, the same goes for Bengalis, Punjabis, Telegus ect.

    this is false. look at harappa dna. bengali and south indian brahmins clearly have local admixture. but it’s like 25%.

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  11. Do South Indian Dravidians, Srilankans and Maldivians have the highest ASI?
    IMO 50%-60% range sounds correct just by looking their traits, and i guess their ANI percentage is similar to eastern Indians and Bengalis and maybe Gujrati-D ?

    highest are a few tribal south indian groups. bengalis are lower ASI cuz 5-15% east asian, but the ani/asi ratio close to south indian middle cast (a *touch* higher ani perhaps cuz there is an indo-european residual).

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  12. “this is false. look at harappa dna. bengali and south indian brahmins clearly have local admixture. but it’s like 25%.”

    Interesting! Actually I cant distinguish a Telegu Brahmin from a mid-caste Telegu, and the Bengali brahmins look exactly mid-caste Bengali and Bangladeshi muslim. The east Asian percentage of Bengali brahmins is lower than what I expected.Originally they are from Kannauj,UP,and UP Brahmins look different than Bengali Brahmins tbh, Bengali Brahmins have some distinctive bengali traits.
    There are many Tam brahms that look Tamil mid-caste,only lower caste south Indians are distinguishable from upper and middle caste dravidians.

    “highest are a few tribal south indian groups. bengalis are lower ASI cuz 5-15% east asian, but the ani/asi ratio close to south indian middle cast (a *touch* higher ani perhaps cuz there is an indo-european residual).”

    I suppose, 5-15% east Asian reduced their ANI as well. Did they(Bengali Muslims) have some Turkic or Pathan ancestry from middle ages? Or they are full descendent of Pala kingdom folks?

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  13. I suppose, 5-15% east Asian reduced their ANI as well. Did they(Bengali Muslims) have some Turkic or Pathan ancestry from middle ages? Or they are full descendent of Pala kingdom folks?

    no mid-east that i see.

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  14. 1. Why is it almost certain that the IVC was multilingual? Even if the Burusho were once common on the plains, they could have been driven up into the mountains before the IVC developed, or in the process of its development (if proto-Dravidians were the first to develop urban polities, and then conquered and/or assimilated the less organized proto-Burusho). And I don’t see why we have to assume that the Burusho were ever present in number on the Indus plain at all – you can get to Gilgit-Baltistan from the Middle East without ever setting foot in the Punjab. It’s certainly possible that the IVC was multilingual, but it’s far from certain.

    2. If you don’t have a background in linguistics, I’d suggest avoiding anything with the name “Starostin” attached to it, and be skeptical about anything coming out of Russia that deals with long-distance language relationships. Sergey Starostin and his son George were/are the center of a Russian school of historical linguistics that is way too eager to lump disparate language families together, standards of evidence be damned. It’s not that they can’t do good scholarship – at least one scholar that I deeply respect has cited them in the past – but you have to know how to sift through their bullshit.

    The article that Stuart Fiedel linked argues against Elamo-Dravidian not because George Starostin thinks that Elamite and Dravidian aren’t at all related, but because he thinks that Elamite and Dravidian don’t form a clade within one of his crazy superfamilies (Nostratic). Elamo-Dravidian is far from proven, but as far as I know it hasn’t been definitively debunked either.

    3. Niger-Congo-Dravidian is of course complete bullshit.

    I should say that after seeing definitive evidence of large-scale Neolithic migration and replacement, I am much more willing to entertain long-distance language connections that I would have rejected out of hand before. It’s now plausible that any language isolate or isolated family from the Atlantic to India could be connected to ancient Middle Eastern languages, or to Caucasian languages that we know have been in the area for a really long time.

    That doesn’t mean that connections will be found – it’s entirely possible that the distant relatives of Basque and Burushaski are completely lost. And even if Basque and, say, Georgian are related, it’s possible that the time depth of that relationship is simply too great to definitively prove it. The great migrations out of the Middle East fall within the soft bounds (~10k years) of how far back linguists think the comparative method CAN work, but that doesn’t mean it WILL work. That’s especially true at time depths closer to the limit, and with relatively sparsely attested families.

    Even at a time depth of just ~5-6k years like with Indo-European, if you only had modern Irish and old Armenian to work with, I’m not sure you’d be able to prove a relationship.

    However… there’s reason to be cautiously optimistic, and I wonder if linguists will start to more seriously consider long-distance connections across Eurasia. It might be possible that there exists enough evidence to connect Basque or Burushaski with a Caucasian or ancient Middle Eastern language, but nobody outside of the fringe has been willing to put in the work to prove it. Dene-Yeniseian only entered the mainstream within the last 10 years, and because of the work of one man.

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  15. Why is it almost certain that the IVC was multilingual?

    the zone of habitation was huge. much larger than fertile crescent which was very multilingual.

    if IVC was settled by one wave of farmers 7 K BP and that’s it, then possible was monolingual. (though should have diversified?)

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  16. From my understanding, the oldest paternal haplogroup of India is H (ASI), and the more recent Ydna packages (L, J2) were bought by Neolithic Iranian farmers (ANI), most recent Ydna incursion being from the steppes (R1a, also ANI). But I’ve always wondered about the position of R2? It is most common in eastern India (West Bengali, Telugu speakers, Tamils and Sinhalese). Were the carriers of R2 Central asian foragers before the Neolithic, or Iranian neolithic farmers or did they come in alongside the steppe people?

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  17. “R2, common in burusho”
    I’m just curious as to how the bearers of this haplogroup went from the northwest fringe of greater India towards the northeast and then along the southern east coast without leaving much remnants in populations of utter pradesh and bihar. I thought they might’ve taken another route than along the north west corridor of today’s Pakistan.

    Also Sinhalese seem to have a high proportion of it, but considering they were descendants of northeastern settlers (i.e. Bengal, as legend has it -500 BC), this relationship would make sense, hence the indo European language of the Sinhalese (as opposed to their Dravidian speaking Tamil counterparts).

    So do you think that the West Asian origin of R2 entered before the Neolithic in Iran/Anatolia/ Levant or after the Neolithic but before the steppe (pre aryan)?

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  18. So do you think that the West Asian origin of R2 entered before the Neolithic in Iran/Anatolia/ Levant or after the Neolithic but before the steppe (pre aryan)?

    latter.

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  19. Can you expand on your thoughts and confidence level on why IA arrival after 2000bc? With their affinity with steppe EMBA and not steppe MLBA, what constrains the late arrival date. Archeologically if 2000bc is possible, 2500bc would be possible too.

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  20. Thanks for reply. IMHO that is the most interesting question. Evidence of Rigvedic people presense in Panjab when Ghaggar-Hakra was center of civilization and before center moved to Ganga is very strong. I wouldn’t be surprised if traditional narrative needs some revision.

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  21. well the earlier date would work as would explain lack of EEF type ancestry in south asians from what i can tell. or, as i said, structure-on-the-steppe.

    the late date is from the archaeologists right?

    (though indo-aryan mitanni show up in syria in ~1500)

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  22. IVC archeologists including western ones don’t insist on late dates anymore. They assert significant continuity from IVC to later civilization. They are open to IA (non dominant) presence in IVC.

    From what I can tell, Late date was mostly coming from linguists due to assumption about Sintastha connection.

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  23. “From my understanding, the oldest paternal haplogroup of India is H (ASI), and the more recent Ydna packages (L, J2) were bought by Neolithic Iranian farmers (ANI), most recent Ydna incursion being from the steppes (R1a, also ANI). But I’ve always wondered about the position of R2? It is most common in eastern India (West Bengali, Telugu speakers, Tamils and Sinhalese). ”

    There is a R2 found in Neolithic Iran, but it may have originated either in west Asia, Central Asia or south Asia.

    https://genetiker.wordpress.com/2016/06/22/y-snp-calls-from-the-ancient-near-east/

    @Razib
    What about H2 sample found in ancient levant,linear pottery culture and neolithic Iberia. Was there a paleolithic migration from the subcontinent toward Europe or H in general originated in paleolithic middle east?
    From what I can see, H1 actually is very common in places like Bangladesh, ~36% according to “Poznik2016”, and the frequency of L and J2 is pretty low there, so I thought H1 is the source of ANI in Bangladesh. It peaks in Romani Gypsies as well and they migrated from NW India IIRC. H1 is very common in Indian population in general but its absence in the Paniya Tribes is rather surprising.

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  24. If one wanted to turn the Indian culture war up to eleven, one could assert the Indo-Aryans brought the Dravidians along as their slaves and the caste system reflects that fact. But that would be pure trolling.

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  25. My prediction on the most likely Y-DNA of the Rakhigarhi skeletons are clades of : H, L, J2b and R2. While I think R1a1a is far less likely than the aforementioned Y-DNA, it wouldn’t surprise me if it was there.

    Just as the Norse preceded the Pilgrims to the Americas, there very likely was an Indo-Iranian speaking group that preceded the Vedic Aryans to the Indus Valley by a few or couple of centuries. The Pathans, Scythians and Persians -all Indo-Iranian speaking groups- intruded into South Asia after the Vedic Aryans. Various Indo-Aryan speaking North Indian empires did manage to rule over part of Dravidian speaking South India, for a short time. Now if Indo-Aryans had managed to hold on to their rule, they very well could have wiped out the Dravidian languages. A contemporary person – of the Hindutva / high caste persuasion – can claim these Southern regions always had Aryan language speakers by pointing to Brahmins and Sanskritic influence that preceded the North Indian empires, thus Indo-Aryans were not intruders. But it is well established that South Indian Brahmins were immigrants from the North.

    In his 2015 book “The Roots of Hindusim. Early Aryans and the Indus Civilization” (Oxford Uni Press) Asko Parpola does state the Aryans encountered dark-skinned people. Parpola does not associate the structures Indra waged war against with the IVC, he connects it to BMAC. Aside from the aforementioned book by Parpola, translations of the R.V. does mention that the Aryans fought against dark-skinned snub nosed people, but that they also found some amongst these folk who looked like Aryans. The implication is that the majority of the inhabitants of the cities or forts were dark-skinned with a minority looking like the Aryans.

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  26. @soma
    The Sinhalese founders are alleged to have come from the North-West. Sinhalese founding myth recounts Prince Vijaya invading Lanka , by boat, about 2500 years ago. The Sinhalese have strong affinities to Orissa, Bengal and South India. Sinhalese royalty did marry South Indian royalty. Genetic testing show the Sinhalese most like Bengalis, Tamils and South Indians.

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  27. The full expanse of IVC would have had more than 1 ethnolinguistic group, owing to its size, which was much larger than Sumer or Egypt. Ranging all the way from North-Eastern Afghanistan to Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra. But the builders/founders of the IVC nexus had to be of 1 ethnolinguistic group because of the stark similarities between the various IVC cities. IVC cities are notable for their grid system and forgoing grand structures for the elites, choosing instead to build advanced (for the time and even many millennia later) dwellings for the many. IVC also lacks the kind of major fortifications one sees in most ancient civilizations. It is hard to imagine different ethnolinquistic groups all agreeing to build their cities to this 1 blueprint.

    I used to think IVC was Dravidian but over the years, partly influenced by Witzel, my confidence level has decreased, such that it is at 60-40 now (60% chance IVC was Dravidian speaking).

    Apart from Dravidian, other languages present in the Indus region could have been proto-Burushaski, Proto-Munda, likely Nihali, likely Kusunda and definitely the language of the Veddah. Later on, maybe as early as 2500BC , the first Indo-Iranian speakers could have started showing up, when IVC was at its mature phase.

    In the book Zeylanica (book on Sri Lankan history), the author mentions an anthropologist encountering some Tamil fisherfolk in North-Eastern Sri Lanka and asking them about Tamil culture. The fisherfolk told him he should go to talk to Tamils about it. This surprised the Anthropologist because he assumed they were Tamil. I am Tamil from Sri Lanka. On my trips there,I noticed phenotypic differences between the traditionally dominant Tamil communities and some of the historically poor Tamil communities. I noticed some of the later tended to have skin that was a shade of dark different to people from the dominant community. There is also a high incidence of low nose bridge and high nasal index. They have much more of what I would call a ‘tribal’ look. In South India, there are people who identify as “Adi-Dravida” which literally means pre-Dravidian. There is some phenotypic difference between socially dominant non-Brahmin Dravidian speakers and some of these ‘lower caste’ Dravidian speakers.

    All this could mean Dravidian was adopted by pre-Dravidian aboriginals in South India. Dravidian can not have been in South India for many thousands of years, because as Razib mentions the Dravidian languages don’t seem too diverged from each other. Plus if Dravidian was autochthonous to the South, Sri Lanka would likely have been densely populated with Dravidian speakers by the time Prince Vijaya – mythical ancestor of Sinhalese- invaded.

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  28. Sinhalese (in Sri Lanka) is most closely related to Maldivian (Maldives) so it makes sense that they were both settled by the same sea-faring people. Both languages are most closely related to Marathi, which points to a relatively recent spread of these languages to the islands. If the spread were more ancient, these languages would be more related to the root than to the branch, and would not be more closely related to Marathi than to other Indic languages.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indo-Aryan_languages#Insular_Indic

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  29. I think you’re right about this tandem-movement of Aryans and Dravidians into the south. It even went on as late as the early 2nd century CE, with the Tamil conquest of Sri Lanka!

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  30. Sinhalese the Indo-European language was a result of Buddhism. Pali became the language of the religion. The grammar and words of Pali were amalgamated into Sinhala. Much like the influence of Latin (and Greek) on Western European languages like French and English.

    Maldives was Buddhist till around the 15th century. Maldivians in general are darker and very slight body frame. Sri Lankans are more mixed than Maldivian within the last 2,000 years. The Sri Lankan Kings/Princes fought each other using mercenaries from South India (velakaras) who were bigger made. The Sri Lankan populace was rarely part of the fighting. Then, 500 years of European occupation gave some of us lighter skin today. Still much darker than most of India.

    Link below the few Sri Lankans on the Harappa Project
    http://sbarrkum.blogspot.com/2013/04/sinhalese-and-tamil-dna-admixture.html

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  31. @Joshua Jonathan
    Sri Lanka was colonized by Indo-Aryan speakers around 2500 years ago. Tamil colonization happened in the North-East, around 1500 years ago.

    As Dravidian languages dominate South India, it is very likely Southern India was already Dravidian before Indo-Aryan speakers arrived in Lanka. So the Northern parts of Sri Lanka would have had some small fishing hamlets by Dravidian speaking South Indians. But not an island wide colonization.

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  32. Nathan, David

    Re: Origins of Vijaya/Sinhalese Founders from the North-West India

    Here is the excerpt from the horses mouth as they say; the Mahavamsa one of the oldest written continuous histories in the world.

    Clearly Eastern India, Kalinga (orissa) and Bengal

    IN the country of the Vangas[1] in the Vanga capital there lived once a king of the Vangas. The daughter of the king of the Kalingas was that king’s consort. By his spouse the king had a daughter, the soothsayers prophesied her union with the king of beasts. Very fair was she and very amorous and for shame the king and queen could not suffer her.

    When they had founded settlements in the land the ministers all came together and spoke thus to the prince: `Sire, consent to be consecrated as king.’ But, in spite of their demand, the prince refused the consecration, unless a maiden of a noble house were consecrated as queen (at the same time).

    But the ministers, whose minds were eagerly bent upon the consecrating of their lord, and who, although the means were difficult, had overcome all anxious fears about the matter, sent people, entrusted with many precious gifts, jewels, pearls, and so forth, to the city of Madhura[16] in southern (India), to woo the daughter of the Pandu king for their lord, devoted (as they were) to their ruler; and they also (sent to woo) the daughters of others for the ministers and retainers.

    When the messengers were quickly come by ship to the city of Madhura they laid the gifts and letter before the king. The king took counsel with his ministers, and since he was minded to send his daughter (to Lanka) he, having first received also daughters of others for the ministers (of VIJAYA), nigh upon a hundred maidens, proclaimed with beat of drum: `Those men here who are willing to let a daughter depart for Lanka shall provide their daughters with a double store of clothing and place them at the doors of their houses. By this sign shall we (know that we may) take them to ourselves.

    http://mahavamsa.org/mahavamsa/original-version/06-coming-vijaya/
    http://mahavamsa.org/mahavamsa/original-version/07-consecrating-vijaya/

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  33. Nathan, David,

    Also remembered Panduvasudeva the second King in the Mahavamsa was half Madarasi.

    In Sihapura, after the death of king Sihabahu, his son Sumitta was king; he had three Sons by the daughter of the Madda[1] king. The messengers coming to Sihapura handed the letter to the king. When he had heard the letter the king spoke thus to his three sons: `I am old, dear ones; one of you must depart for the greatly favoured and beauteous Lañkä belonging to my brother, and there, after his death, assume, (the sovereignty of) that fair kingdom.’

    The king’s youngest son, the prince PANDUVASUDEVA, thought: I will go hither.

    ============================================

    On another note: If you read the Mahavamsa the Sinhalese Kings never made the claim to being Aryan. In fact the in the Culavamsa (not online) Aryans are mentioned as enemies.

    In Contrast the Tamil Kings (minor chieftains in my opinion)in the North (Jaffna) had the title Arya Charavarthi.

    http://mahavamsa.org/mahavamsa/original-version/08-consecrating-panduvasudeva/

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  34. @Razib – the rumour is that ancient DNA will show IVC as strongly ASI and dominated by haplogroup L. Any thoughts on that? If true I would think that the IVC would have been distinct and separate from the Iranian Neolithic groups and ultimately indigenous in origin.

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  35. Would lactase tolerance have been brought from farmers of Near Eastern origin or from Bronze Age IE speakers? I realize that the two groups are not severely binary and may have admixed outside of the Subcontinent prior to entering it.

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  36. @Razib – the rumour is that ancient DNA will show IVC as strongly ASI and dominated by haplogroup L. Any thoughts on that? If true I would think that the IVC would have been distinct and separate from the Iranian Neolithic groups and ultimately indigenous in origin.

    have not heard that. would be interesting!

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  37. I have nothing to add, but just wanted to express my appreciation for this post and the follow-up commentary. I’ve learned so much!

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  38. Razib,
    Thanks for this article and the following discussion. For a long time I thought ASI –> Onge , and ANI –> some proxy for Intruders, and their mixture is a cline but not a cut-off for two distinct populations.

    Did I understand you correctly that ANI-ASI cline is misleading because, it must be three groups? say, ANI only (proxy for intruder), NSM –> N-S mixture (proxy for “impure” ASI? or non-neolithic arrivals? these Iran_N must be before bronze age, right?) and ASI only (proxy for Onge?)

    (of course, this is not even counting Bengalis with their East Asian mix).

    Or, is it that we are really look at four distinct groups? (sorry if my labels are imprecise..I don’t understand the subtleties of EHG, WHG, ANE or CHG…)
    Group A – pure “Steppe”
    Group B – Steppe + Iran_N (–> Aryans?)
    Group C – Iran_N + Onge (–> Dravidians?)
    Group D – pure “Onge”

    It is that modern Indians are mainly a mix of Group B and C, whose DNA is being imperfectly modelled using Group A and Group D and thus clustering them as distinct groups?

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  39. Group A – pure “Steppe”
    Group B – Steppe + Iran_N (–> Aryans?)
    Group C – Iran_N + Onge (–> Dravidians?)
    Group D – pure “Onge”

    It is that modern Indians are mainly a mix of Group B and C, whose DNA is being imperfectly modelled using Group A and Group D and thus clustering them as distinct groups?”

    In my personal opinion, im not even sure if a pure ASI pop even existed.

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  40. Late to the party, but I wonder if an analogue for Dravidians can be found in SE Asian groups like the Tai which were pushed out of what is now southern China by the expansion of the Chinese state? That is to say, the IVC was at least partially Dravidian, and the response of some of the settled states to increasing Aryan incursions was to migrate further and further away from the initial zone of conflict, ultimately displacing less organized cultural groups in the process.

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  41. From my humble understanding (feel free to rectify, I rushed this!)
    ASI: composite of Austro asiatic and a population most similar yet distant (26,000 yrs) to the onge tribe.
    The first people on the scene were Austro asiatics who came from east Africa through India (munda, khasi, Gond etc speaking people’s (although the present populations have admixed with present day Indian (+ANI +ASI) so are not ‘pure’). They then went to Southeast Asia forming the pearic, khumic, mon-Khmer, vietic etc speaking people (who were later mixed with Tibeto Burmese and Thai-Kadai speaking people from southern china forming present day mainland southeast Asians (with additional south asian admixture for Burmese, Cambodians and Malaysians), (Pacific Islanders had admixture via Taiwanese populations). After the Austro asiatics came another population that is most similar yet divereged on the order of 26,000 years from the onge group from andaman and nicobar islands. The mtdna of these groups were M, N,R, U.

    ANI: then came the west Eurasian people. Initially those bearing ydna H (spawned from ydna F) during palaeolithic period entered. Then during the Neolithic revolution (whilst Anatolian farmers went to Europe mixing with WHG forming a complex later to be mixed with steppe, and levant farmers to North Africa), Iranian farmers went to indian via north west in multiple migrations bringing with them ydna packages (L, J2,R2), language and agriculture, and possibly religion. People bearing R2 seem to have moved east, whilst those bearing L and J2 joined H in the rest expecially areas of IVC (Haryana, Punjab, Baloch, Sind, Gujarat).

    Aryan (+ANI): then came the aryans from the Eurasian steppe from southern ukraine. They are a mix of European hunter gatherers (EHG) which is a composite of (WHG and ancestral north Eurasian (ANE), which is distantly related to ancient siberians (which may explain high amounts of siberians in some calculators for south Asians), and Iranian Neolithic farmers (settled Caucasus hunter gatherers (CHG), so,
    Aryans (EHG + CHG), the former being a composite as I explained. These aryans brought the Vedic religion perhaps as they passed BMAC.

    This so far, the typical Indian exhibits

    1) Dravidian = ASI (composite; Austro asiatic + onge type) + ANI (mixture of diff west Eurasian Neolithic farmers).
    2) Aryans (+ANI): more common in northwest, pushing ydna L bearers to the south? And R2 to the east?

    Bengali have additional East Asian ancestry:
    Tibeto Burmese groups migrated towards Nepal + Tibet, Burma , and northeast india (bengali receiving admixture this way).
    We may also have some Thai which seems to show up. The presence of Thai elite in the Ahom kingdom of karumpa may testify to their presence and this admixture.

    I may be wrong, like I said, I am an amateur; Razib don’t be mad

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  42. composite of Austro asiatic and a population most similar yet distant (26,000 yrs) to the onge tribe.

    the austro-asiatic almost certainly came from southeast asia.

    1) the Y dna is more diverse there

    2) they have clear east asian DNA that non-bengali south asians don’t

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  43. Assuming that the Rakhigarhi remains really are overwhelmingly ASI (where we would be expecting the IVC to have a lot of ANI), I can think of 3 possible explanations:

    1) Rakhigarhi just had more ASI ancestry than the average IVC settlement. That wouldn’t be implausible, given its location on the eastern edge of the IVC.
    2) Most of the Iran-like ancestry in India was introduced along with the Aryans. Either the Aryans brought a large population of Iran_N ancestry with them, or else the Aryans that invaded India were themselves of mixed steppe and Iran_N ancestry (which would make sense, if the pre-India Indo-Aryans had spent a few centuries around BMAC and the Iranian plateau).
    3) There was a large influx of Iran_N DNA in the relatively short interval between the births of the Rakhigarhi individuals, and the arrival of the Aryans.

    3) seems highly implausible, and I think 2) would be hard to square with the genetic evidence – at least, the Iran_N ancestry couldn’t have been brought in solely by admixed steppe-Iran_N Aryans, because there are populations in India with a lot of Iran_N and relatively little steppe ancestry. If Iran_N entered with the Aryans, it would have to have been through subject populations (the original dasas?), or else through Aryans who were the descendants of acculturated Iran_N populations. But then you would have to explain why the more Iran_N-like populations were biased towards migrating south with the Dravidian speakers, while the populations with more steppe ancestry stayed in the north.

    Overall, it requires too tortured/implausible of a narrative to explain how Iranian Neolithic ancestry got into India in such large quantity without being introduced by Iranian Neolithic migrants. 1) is the most likely explanation – Rakhigarhi just had more ASI ancestry than the rest of the IVC.

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  44. Hello

    How come these Punjabi samples have a great deal of Onge DNA, and reduced Iran Neolithic and Steppe ancestry? I thought Punjabis would be genetically similar to Sindhis. I myself am a Punjabi Gujjar and in almost all of my results I got no more than 20% Onge+Han ancestry. My Steppe proportions were between 36 and 40% and my Iran Neolithic proportions ranged from 40 to 45%. David ran these for me.

    Thanks Razib

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